Desperately Seeking Dudus…Letters from the Dead

“They seek him here,
they seek him there,
those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel.”

Dudus is far from being the Scarlet Pimpernel but the Jamaican armed forces are certainly busy seeking the mild-mannered Christopher Coke in every nook and cranny of the country. Even the Mayor of Kingston’s house wasn’t spared in the security forces’ hunt for Jamaica’s Pimpernel.

It now appears the armed forces executed a well-planned and stealthy assault on Dudus’s citadel, Tivoli Gardens, on May 23rd. The scenario didn’t play out quite as feared back in March when Police expressed concern that the country’s 268 gangs might act in concert to create incidents throughout the country to distract lawmen in the event of an offensive on Tivoli.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson went on record then saying that “Government was focusing on preparing strong anti-gang legislation that would target, infiltrate and dismantle criminal gangs.

“The legislation, Nelson said, would also identify and arrest members of criminal gangs; ensure long sentences for gang members; conduct a thorough historical and proactive investigation into the activities of gang members; and develop intelligence as to each member’s association with and participation in gangs.”

With the speed at which Dons and gang members have been turning themselves in, one fervently hopes that the said legislation is in place to put them away for a long time. Meanwhile the security forces must be congratulated for keeping deaths down to under a hundred although the various charges of wrongful detention, wounding and killings by the armed forces must also be fully investigated with those responsible for the wanton taking of life duly punished. The New York Times had an article today about extrajudicial killings by Jamaican police, something that’s a problem even when there’s no state of emergency.

Life has more or less returned to normal on the rock except for those who lost family members in the clash and for those who remain on the run. The tragedy is that the parts of the city where gangsters unleashed violence are the same areas which have long been the killing fields of Kingston.

At the Caribbean Studies’ Association’s 35th annual conference in Barbados, May 24-28, eerily titled “The Everyday Occurrence of Violence in the Cultural Life of the Caribbean,” many of us recalled the previous CSA conference in Kingston last June which included a commemorative walk for victims of violence organized by Sistren and the Peace Management Initiative. The walk started outside the Hannah Town Police Station (the first building to be burnt down by the gunmen protesting Dudus’s arrest last week) and proceeded along Hannah Street, Slipe Pen Road, past the Kingston Public Hospital culminating in a ceremony at the Monument to Children killed in Violence outside the KSAC offices on Church Street.

As the pictures above from the Letters from the Dead walk show, it was mainly women who marched, each one holding an image of a slain family member. An article in Guyana’s Stabroek News documented the process preceding the performance as recorded by Honor Ford-Smith and Alissa Trotz:

Weeks before the march took place, workshops with women from different communities explored the ways in which people remember and forget urban violence. Women discussed the different circumstances that result in the shooting and death of diverse victims and the enormous pain and waste that it has caused. For several, forgetting was an attempt to cope with the pain of loss, but it was also to avoid the desire for revenge that was triggered by remembering, raising the important question of how to link memory with reconciliation as one constructive response to violence. Participants found it difficult to share their stories publicly and in a collective setting. One woman who had lost all of her children to violence spoke of her complete isolation, of shutting herself in her house, of leaving her yard and being completely disoriented on a street that she had inhabited for years. Her story is deeply symbolic of how the violence both produces and continues to be produced by alienation from neighbourhood and community, spaces that we so often associate with nurturing and bonds of solidarity.

The performance on June 3 vividly dramatized elements of the workshops. Women, men and children gathered in the yard outside a church in Hannah Town. Dressed primarily in black, heads tied with red cloth, each person bore witness to the devastating effects of violence on families and communities. During the workshops, participants had selected images of those they had lost. As we took to the streets that afternoon, we were surrounded by faces of the dead mounted on placards, pinned to shirts, hung on a cord around the neck. On a poster held up by one elderly woman, an infant lost to gun violence stared out solemnly at those gathered in the churchyard.

As the procession began its trek through downtown Kingston, participants formed a long line, bearing 35 yards of red cloth that rippled like water, symbolizing the blood of the thousands killed in community wars over the last decades. Two young women dressed in white – cultural workers from Toronto – performed the part of ghosts or spirits, urging the marchers on to the final destination. Women led the marchers in church hymns punctuated by clapping. Some bore a coffin that had been made locally – it is tragic how many funeral parlours one can find in inner city Kingston – and that linked urban wars in Canada to those in Kingston through the use of repeating images of the black youth murdered in Toronto. Onlookers – asking questions or greeting familiar faces – were urged to join the march. Scholars who are members of the Caribbean Studies Association from around the world and who were holding their annual conference in Kingston, also joined the walk which was part of the performance programme of the conference.

The ‘walk’ culminated outside the office of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, at the site of the Secret Garden and Monument to the Children, dedicated in late 2008 to remember those killed under violent and tragic circumstances since 2000. The bronze sculpture depicts the face of a weeping child, with names of the dead inscribed around its perimeter; almost three sides of the monument had been filled with hundreds of names, children ranging in age from a few months to 17 years. As a young woman sang a tribute to the dead children, the red cloth was laid down on the pavement and placards and mementos laid along its length. Before a large gathering that had collected on the street, Sistren member Afolashade explained the purpose of the moving commemoration, and invited workshop participants to the microphones to share the letters they had written to their dead and to ‘post’ them in a specially designed letterbox. Audience members were also asked to read a few letters aloud. Others read fictional responses from victims of violence; in one particularly telling letter, a young man imagined his dead friend urging him not to link memory to retribution because that would only continue the cycle of violence. Music by reggae musicians including Ibo Cooper – from Third World – and others accompanied the readings. After the last letter was read, witnesses were invited to walk around the cloth. People pointed out faces they knew. A woman exclaimed in shock when she realized that a male friend of hers was among the dead. There was silence as people circled the monument to read the names of children. One woman who had been leading us in song along the march collapsed on the sidewalk in grief, surrounded by other women trying to comfort her.

The question is what sort of ritual will we need to hold now for the inhabitants of Tivoli Gardens and others who were victims of Operation Desperately Seeking Dudus?

"To all the pilots I ask for your comments": A pilot’s take on the AA331 crash in Jamaica

Ok folks…sometimes blogs take on a life of their own and when that happens you just play a parental role and facilitate it. A pilot calling himself Dave has responded to my last post by speculating on the causes of AA331’s crash just beyond the Norman Manley International Airport on Dec. 23rd…he suggests pilot error was most likely the cause…but read what he said for yourselves. i’ve cut and pasted his comments left on my post What Next? below:

Blogger Dave said…

AA Jamaica crash: Although I am aware that it is irresponsible to speculate on a cause before all the facts are know, I do however feel that, at least on forums like this one, it is ok to speculate based on known facts. Here is what’s known. 1) 15Kt. winds out of NNE. 2) Heavy rain at night on a non-grooved runway. 3) Pilots near the end of their 12-hour max. on-duty time. 4) Plane fully loaded with passengers and probably heavier on fuel than domestic flights. 5) Pilots had not flown much in previous weeks. 6) Plane touched down very far down runway 12. 7) Plane landed hard. Based on what’s known I think you can make the follow deductions. I believe the tail winds played a very significant role in this crash. Ground speeds would have been 20-30Kts fast than pilots are used to. This along with a nighttime wet runway would have made it easy to misjudge the point of touchdown. Glide slope would have been kept in check on approach but near the ground pilots take over and visually fly the plane. Things would look much different than they normally do especially taking night, rain and fatigue issues into consideration. A go around would have been resisted because of a desire to get the plane on the ground due to bad conditions and current preferred patterns at that airport. As a pilot who has made down wind landings I can tell you that it is very difficult to hit your spot maintaining glide slope without stalling the plane. You have to descend at a quicker rate to maintain glide slope and touch down speeds to hit your spot. This is not a comfortable normal feeling to the pilots. Things happen so much quicker down wind and pilots are not used to this type of approach. Extra weight, rain, night, and fatigue and stress of bad conditions add to the level of difficulty of this down wind landing. I would not be surprised if the black boxes show the plane did or almost did “stall” just before touch down. That would explain the heavy landing reported. Higher ground speeds and weights with reduced runway length due to mid runway touch down point along with wet non-grooved runway made this crash, at this point, inevitable. At the end of the day there will be several factors pinpointed at fault (as there always is), however the primary cause will be pilot error for the following reasons: a) not going to an alternate airport given conditions at primary b) having proceeded to primary not asking to land from the east. c) having proceeded downwind failing to abort the approach and or landing prior to touchdown d) having proceeded downwind having misjudged the point of landing and not maintaining proper glide slope, approach speeds and touchdown point. To all the pilots I ask for your comments

American Airlines Flight 331 crash lands in Jamaica

People walked away alive from this!

There is such pathos in this image, poor broken plane–uncanny resemblance to a beached whale!

OMG, it looks as if L.A. Lewis got to the plane before the emergency crews reached there!
photo courtesy Peter Dean Rickards.
Well, that was a close call. Only a miracle kept AA Flight 331 from bursting into flames after it hit the ground running (as it were) last night. After a turbulent ride from Miami to Kingston, the 148 passengers were relieved and happy when the plane appeared to make a smooth landing; relieved enough to break into applause, the normal way for Jamaicans to celebrate a skillful touchdown. But then the plane proceeded to race down the runway without braking to a stop as it normally would. The Norman Manley International Airport’s runways extend almost into the sea and AA331 looked as if it was determined to make a splash, ripping through the fence at the perimeter of the airport, across the main road to Port Royal, before coming to an abrupt and violent halt on the rocky coastline on the other side of the road, merely ten feet from the sea. The impact was sudden enough to rip the fuselage apart breaking the plane up into three sections.
Inside the plane it was completely dark and the overhead compartments had disgorged their contents on the heads of the passengers below. “Open the doors! Open the doors!” they screamed. One passenger said he realized there was a problem when he felt the rain coming through the roof. In short time the crew got the emergency doors open and were ushering passengers through them as quickly as they could. The stench of fuel was overpowering and everyone was terrified that the plane would burst into flames at any minute. According to one passenger there was only one thing on their minds, to exit the plane by any means necessary and then run for their lives.

As they picked themselves off the ground the first passengers to disembark saw a bus waiting in the distance. They hurtled towards it, flinging themselves in with the help of the busdriver and a male JUTC employee who was with her.

Annette Howard, the busdriver, had just completed her last run for the day from Kingston to Port Royal. She asked an old friend, Horace Williams, to accompany her on the lonely trip back to town. As they approached the airport they saw the familiar sight of a plane landing, which made Annette wonder aloud “Bwoy when mi a go fly pon one o dem plane there?” Then something astounding happened. The plane taxied down the runway, burst through the fence and crossed the road in front of them. @!#$%?! exclaimed Annette, as the plane hit the rocky coast with a loud explosion like a bomb. A few minutes later the two friends watched in stupefaction as the plane doors opened and a stream of passengers issued forth running towards the bus for all they were worth.

While Annette helped as many passengers onto the bus as possible, Horace tried to call 911. He got through immediately but the policeman who answered refused to believe him when he said that an American Airlines jet had just crashed. The police initially hung up thinking it was a hoax…
Well, the rest is airline history. What i’ve recounted here is what i obtained from listening to Dionne Jackson-Miller’s programme on RJR radio this evening. At the end of this post there is a youtube video recounting more information on the crash.

Immediately below is a Facebook conversation (convo) between some media friends who are incensed at the tack taken by the international media which seem to be alleging that the Jamaican airport authorities are at fault for inadequately lit runways.Not surprisingly this has become an occasion for touting the virtues of the national airline, Air Jamaica, versus the bumbling foreign airline whose pilots clearly lack the skill of Jamaican pilots. Initials have been mildly disguised to protect identities.


DM: How convenient it is, that its not the airline’s fault. Look how much rass plane lan’ a NMA n nuh complain bout poor lighting! Bet seh if it was Air J, you would hear that it was a fault of the airline. But now that is AA its the fault of the local authority! Gweh!!!
YL: yuh seet! di raas pilot never guh a landing class….bout lighting…how come lighting was never a problem before?

AS: mek sure u mention dat pon yuh program tonight…. trace dem off…

KC: Authorities or bad weather? R u sure you heard correctly?

DM: CNN and NBC claim the AA pilot overshot the runway bc it was poorly lit. By doing so, the US media is already ascribing blame to the local authorities. And EVERYBODY know seh AA pilot nuh lan good ahreddi! Mi always cuss seh dem jus fling dung d plane dem ‘BLOOF!’ Thats why I prefer Air J

YL: they’re now blaming the local authorities saying the lighting on the runway was bad! Now there are soooo many holes in that argument, I can’t even begin to tear them apart but let’s just use the most basic – this AA flight is the first incident EVER!!!! Hmmmm, so if lighting was bad, how come we’ve never had an incident before? How Come?
TC:  Amen D! Dem AA bitches can’t fly for shit & dem damn bright pon top of it! A Jeanne airline still! AirJ fi mi money from long time!!
DM: @Tasha…Jeanne has been known to make poor choices. hmmm

WC: Any plane can crash! A so media stay, dennis a u fraternity! Me dis say me ‘goodbyes’ when me a go no weh cos me no ave d luxury fi ‘choose’ cos eeda me walk or tek whieva carrier a go weh me a go! So e set up


What Next??

This Voodoo doll pen holder by Dead Fred is a good representation of the Jamaican body politic post tax axe…

Sincerely hoping that the following photos are not harbingers of the year to come…American Airlines crashes on arrival in Kingston and Bruce afflicts us with taxes on Christmas Eve. The joke is the new taxes are called PBYE (Pay Before You Eat) as opposed to PAYE (Pay As You Earn)…

That’s on the local front and on the global front warm times are ahead now that COP15 seems to have been a COPout, see the Banksy graffiti below…what next indeed??

Photo, What Next? by Colin Hamilton

American airline photos, photographer unknown

%d bloggers like this: